The Monitor's Guide to Religion Bestsellers
1. APOLLYON by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Tyndale House, $19.97 As the Apocalypse lengthens, our friends from the Tribulation Force continue to battle the anti-Christ to bring souls to Jesus. The woes that John prophesied in Revelation continue to afflict the world, and things worsen before they get better. Unfortunately, the more I read this series, the more disappointed I get. The authors attempt too much by providing more background than is necessary. The writing is choppy, and as the plot leaps from location to location, the reader is often left behind.
2. ONE DAY MY SOUL JUST OPENED U by Iyanla Vanzant, Fireside, $13 Vanzant admonishes us in the opening page to "remain open. There is something bigger than you know going on here." And that's her underlying point throughout - let go and let God work in your life. She's structured her ideas into a 40-day spiritual regeneration plan, with a daily principle to mull over, starting with "truth" and ending with "unconditional love." But many of the principles in between veer away from the spiritual toward simple suggestions on changing your outlook. (303 pp.) By Kristina Lanier
3. GOD IS IN THE SMALL STUFF... by Bruce Bickel, Barbour, $12.99 The makers of the W(hat) W(ould) J(esus) D(o) bracelets have come out with a book based on the same principle: Realize that all the details of your life matter and that you will find peace and happiness only if you find your way through Jesus Christ. The framework and even some of the content of this book are similar to those quotation books that encourage readers to simplify their lives, listen to their mothers, and even grab wisdom from their pets. If you're looking for a Christian gift book, this could be a sweet choice. (249 pp.) By Christy Ellington
4. LIGHTPOSTS FOR LIVING by Thomas Kinkade, Warner, $20 Kinkade's latest book is the ginger ale of inspirational books: It's got some sparkle and even some surprising bubbles, but in the end it comes up dry and leaves you a little thirsty. Better known as the "painter of light" because of his ability to paint scenes of warmth and happiness, Kinkade loses his simple flavor in this wordy attempt to sketch ways of living a life full of beauty. His advice to simplify one's life by shopping less and knowing what is most important gives this book the core of many others, although it's decorated with pretty pictures. (238 pp). By Christy Ellington
5. JUST LIKE JESUS by Max Lucado, Word, $19.99 The Rev. Max Lucado's book encourages readers to make changes in their lives by following Jesus' example. Lucado infuses his chapters with examples of common challenges, many from his own family's experience. While this book would be of great value to someone exploring faith anew, it's also for any reader wishing to improve by considering the statement, "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." Included is a study guide, correlative Bible passages, and questions corresponding to the chapters. (223 pp.) By Leigh Montgomery
6. THE ART OF HAPPINESS, by the Dalai Lama & H. Cutler, Riverhead, $22.95 The purpose of life, says the Dalai Lama, is to seek happiness. This seemingly elementary statement requires strict adherence and mental discipline toward a benevolent, rather than self-centered, happiness. There is great value in reading about the basic spiritual values of this unique world figure and Tibetan spiritual leader: human qualities of goodness, compassion, and caring. This book is based on a series of conversations the Dalai Lama had with Howard Cutler, a Phoenix-based psychiatrist. (322 pp.) By Leigh Montgomery
7. THE GIFT FOR ALL PEOPLE, by Max Lucado, Multnommah, $12.99 The Rev. Lucados latest is a celebration of Gods salvation wrapped in a collection of inspirational stories. Written in a Chicken Soup for the Soul style, these warm and breezy stories are intended to teach readers about eternal salvation through Jesus Christ. Although this book is couched in Orthodox Christian terms, the truths are broad enough for all those interested in learning about Christianity. The concluding story urges readers to give their lives to Jesus Christ and provides steps on how to do so. (135 pp.) By Sara Steindorf
8. TURNING HURTS INTO HALOS, by Robert Schuller, Thomas Nelson, $22.99 The Rev. Schuller commits his newest book to what he considers the inevitable pain and hurt of human experience. Host of the popular "Hour of Power" televised church service, Schuller uses stories from his own experience and others' lives to illustrate that when life's unavoidable pain is handed over to God, it can be transformed into a halo. While sometimes enlightening and encouraging, the book falls just short of delivering the tangible truths necessary to make these transitions possible.
9. THE LADY, HER LOVER, AND HER LORD, by T.D. Jakes, Putnam, $19.99 Jakes tries valiantly here to provide women with a navigational atlas for today's world. He perceptively assesses some typical pitfalls of relationships and self-perception. Using the Scriptures as the foundation, he hammers home three basic points: (1) Be happy with yourself, (2) have confidence in your relationship with God, and (3) trust that everything else will follow. But that's where the book loses its punch. These ideas could have easily fit into a brief pamphlet. Instead, his concepts get lost in 208 pages of belabored writing and fluffy analogies. By Kristina Lanier
10. FAITH IN THE VALLEY, by Iyanla Vanzant, Simon & Schuster, $21 Vanzant's book addresses experiences that appear to be "valleys" - negative situations that should be viewed as life lessons. The book is arranged in single-page entries with headings such as "I Don't Have Time!" and "I Can't Believe This Is Happening to Me Again." Vanzant explores each situation with thoughtful encouragement, frequently reminding readers that they are "spiritual representatives of God's goodness." While written especially for African-American women, it is a book many people could relate to. (367 pp.) By Leigh Montgomery